This post is all about ochazuke! Do you know what that is?
Ochazuke, (お茶漬け) is simple Japanese dish that consists of green tea poured over steamed rice and an assortment of toppings (anything from salmon to pickled plums will do!) In the word ochazuke, ‘cha’ refers to the green tea and ‘zuke’ means submerged. So this is a submerged green tea dish ?. (Note that the ‘o’ at the beginning of the word is an honorific prefix. This ‘o’ is often used in front of words important to Japanese culture like sake → osake, water → omizu, and tea → ocha. Whew, you just learned a little Japanese!
Though simple, ochazuke is a wholesome and comforting food that is especially delicious during the winter months. It is this simplicity that has led to the popularity of instant ochazuke.
While the instant version is convenient and cheap, some restaurants have taken the opposite approach and have instead elevated this dish with specialty toppings and premium teas. I recently went to Kappō Yoshida, a Fukuoka restaurant known for their special sea bream (tai) ochazuke.
I arrived at Kappō Yoshida right before it opened hoping to beat the lunch rush. Even when I thought I was early, there was already a line! Though this restaurant recently moved, it looked like the relocation didn’t stop fans from coming. Since this was the first time I had to wait in line for lunch since being in Japan, I hoped it meant the restaurant lived up to its reputation for good seafood.
Once inside, my temperature was scanned and I was led to the second floor. The area was pretty spacious and there were plastic dividers set up between the seats.
Although I already had an idea of what I wanted, I gave the menu a quick scan just to be sure. It was all in Japanese so it was a little difficult to navigate, but when the server came I was able to order the tai ochazuke lunch set with a side of tempura.
Before long my table was filled with a variety of dishes:
- a small bowl of salad – drizzled with specialty tai dressing.
- a dish of pickled radish and green- the radish was super tasty, perfectly sweet and not overpowered with vinegar.
- a bamboo steamer of rice – many Japanese restaurants allow you to eat all the rice you want and this place was no exception. If you wanted more rice, all you needed to do was ask.
- a bowl of tai sashimi in a soy based sauce topped with a big ball of wasabi and sprinkled with seaweed strips.
- a pot filled with hot green tea.
- a small dish with pink tai furikake (a seasoning used to sprinkle on top of the ochazuke).
- a small plate of tempura and dipping sauce.
To eat the tai sashimi, this restaurant recommends a two step process. First, mix everything in the sashimi bowl together to evenly distribute the wasabi and sauce over the fish, then enjoy a few slices. When the dish initially came, it looked like there was too much wasabi. After tasting it however, I was surprised to find that mixed all together, the wasabi enhanced the fish without being overly strong. As for the fish itself, I was happy that the slices were tender and not too thick (I’ve had tai before that was chewy and tough, so this was a much better experience).
Making sure to not finish all the sashimi, the next step is to eat it ochazuke style. I scooped out some rice from the bamboo steamer, added in the remaining sashimi, then poured in hot green tea to make a soupy broth. Lastly, I sprinkled some of the tai seasoning on top. The temperature change from the added tea give the meal a nice twist and it was neat to see how the wasabi soy sauce marinade mixed with the tea to make a savory soup. I am a big fan of experimental dining, so I really appreciated having more than one way to enjoy the ingredients in this meal!
After finishing, you take the receipt from the table down the the first floor to pay. I didn’t realize that this restaurant was cash-only before dining, but luckily I had some on me. A reminder that it is always good to keep cash on hand when travelling in Japan!
Overall, I had fun eating this meal because it offered a unique take on traditional ochazuke and the fish was particularly tasty. (The tempura I ordered was also good, but was not the highlight of this meal.) My only complaint is that the portions felt a bit small. Since I didn’t want to fill up just on rice, I finished my meal just a little bit hungry. Additionally, because this was a specialty establishment, I found the meal to be quite expensive for lunch at ~ ¥1800 ($17). (More reason why me leaving a little hungry wasn’t optimal.)
Even with all this being said, I will probably still return to Kappō Yoshida as I enjoyed the dining experience and will occasionally be willing to pay a little more for their dishes. As I was eating, I saw a few other tasty looking meals pass by so there is still more to taste at this restaurant!
Hungry For More? Check out some of my other favorite restaurants I’ve visited in Japan!
- Katsuretsu Tei– Kumamoto | Kurobuta (black pork) tonkatsu. The best tonkatsu I’ve eaten so far…
- Mizutaki Nagano –Fukuoka | Mizutaki (chicken broth hot pot)
- Cafe Relair – Fukuoka | Lots of Umeshu (plum wine)
- Kobe Beef – Kobe | My first Kobe beef experience! A delicious 9 course meal of the highest grade Kobe Beef